Face First: Why Runners’ Face Protection Should Be Your Top Priority

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Beginner Runner
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David Dack

Why do some long-time runners look old? If you’re looking for an answer, then you’ve come to the right place.

You’ve probably heard the rumors that running can make you look old or even cause wrinkles. But is there any truth to it?

The answer might surprise you.

Running is an intense activity that puts a lot of strain on your body, and it’s natural to wonder if it could also be taking a toll on your face.

In this post, we’ll dive into the science behind runners’ face and separate fact from fiction.

You’ll discover that the idea of a runners’ face is nothing more than a myth and learn some tips to protect your skin while running.

So, whether you’re a seasoned runner or just getting started, keep reading to find out the truth about runners’ face.

The Truth Behind Runners Face

The mysterious “Runner’s Face” phenomenon is a fascinating yet controversial topic that has captured the attention of many runners and non-runners alike.

This alleged premature-aging phenomenon supposedly affects runners in their 30s and beyond, leaving them with a less-than-youthful appearance. But let’s delve into the depths of science and statistics to uncover the truth behind this enigma.

Some believe that the repetitive up-and-down motion of running causes the skin to lose its elasticity, resulting in sagging cheeks and facial structures. However, before we jump to conclusions, let’s examine the evidence at hand.

Contrary to popular belief, the theory of bouncing faces is nothing more than an urban legend. There is a distinct lack of solid scientific proof to support this claim. Instead, much of the so-called evidence stems from anecdotal accounts or dubious “sponsored articles” by beauty clinics attempting to prey on the insecurities of potential customers. So, when it comes to putting fillers in your face, you can confidently say, “No, thank you!”

But here’s the twist: While the bouncing face theory may not hold water, there are genuine reasons why some endurance athletes may appear older than their actual age. These factors have nothing to do with the repetitive motion experienced during training. It’s time to separate fact from fiction and uncover the true culprits.

Let’s get to the truth.

Why Do Runners Look Old – The Free Radical Theory

Research suggests that running and other forms of cardio training can cause free-radical stress that may damage collagen and elastin, the skin’s most vital supportive fibers. When you exercise, your body develops free radicals from training stresses, which is a natural response from the process of recovering and patching up the muscles. The problem is, depending on the length, type, nutrition, and recovery time, the excess of free radicals can accumulate and damage the cells, which we usually associate with aging.

Is It Hopeless?

Don’t throw your running shoes into the trash just yet. A study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine reported that only extremely intense training results in cell damage.

So, what qualifies as extremely intense?

Any training for 90 minutes or longer at 70 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate, according to research.

Maybe this is the reason why you’re more likely to notice some of these effects on serious endurance runners who log a lot of miles every week. Mild intensity is defined as training at 50 to 60 percent of the maximum heart rate three to five times a week.

In other words, if you’re a recreational runner performing most of your runs outside of the intense category, then you shouldn’t worry about scaling back your running to protect your precious face.

It’s important to note that regular exercise, especially running, is one of the major triggers for healthy skin. Exercising regularly can increase circulation, improve bone density, and upgrade your immune system, which may grant your skin a more youthful and lively appearance. Plus, exercise is also one of the best anti-aging measures you can take for your lungs, heart, brain, productivity, and brainpower.

Additional resource – Vitamin D for runners

The Sun

Running outside can be an invigorating and rewarding experience, but it can also put your skin at risk. Exposure to the sun can do a number on your skin and leave you looking older than your years.

Did you know that every minute spent under the sun counts as one exposure? So, if you’re going on a 2-hour run, you’re racking up around 120 exposures! The sun’s UV light can damage your skin’s layers and cause age spots, uneven pigmentation, and even skin cancer. According to research, 80 percent of the signs of aging are attributed to sun damage.

Air Pollution

It’s not just the sun you need to worry about. Air pollution can also contribute to the formation of a less-than-radiant complexion. In fact, a study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that exposure to air pollution can drastically increase the signs of skin aging. If you’re curious about the impact of pollution in your area, you can check out Dermalogica’s Skin Pollution Index. The higher the number, the greater the impact on your skin.

For more on the impact of running and the elements on your face, check out the following sources:

Anti-aging Effects of Select Botanicals: Scientific Evidence and Current Trends

Does age-dynamic movement accelerate facial age impression?

The Relationships between Age and Running Biomechanics

The Facial Aging Process From the “Inside Out”

The Science and Theory Behind Facial Aging

How to Protect Your Face When Running Outdoor

Here are a few tips to help you protect your face while exploring the outdoors.

Use Sunscreen

Are you tired of constantly battling sunburn and uneven skin tone after a long run outdoors? Look no further than sunscreen, the ultimate weapon against the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. And no, sunscreen isn’t just for women – it’s for anyone who wants to keep their skin looking young and healthy, regardless of gender.

But not all sunscreens are created equal. To get the most protection possible, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. And don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your lips – after all, they need protection too.

If you’re a long-distance runner, opt for a spray sunscreen for easy reapplication during your run. But don’t forget to apply your sunscreen at least 15 to 20 minutes before your run to allow your skin to absorb it fully.

And here’s a pro tip: sunscreen typically starts to lose effectiveness after about two hours, or even sooner if you’re sweating heavily. So be sure to reapply frequently, especially during long runs.

If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, opt for a sunscreen with SPF 50 and no higher. While higher SPF may seem like a good idea, it can actually lead to a greater risk of clogged pores and breakouts.

But sunscreen isn’t the only defense against outdoor elements. Air pollution can also wreak havoc on your skin, leading to uneven pigmentation, age spots, and even skin cancer. To find out the impact of pollution in your area, check Dermalogica’s Skin Pollution Index.

Wear A Hat And Sunglasses

Let’s shed some light on the essential accessory that should be a staple in every runner’s wardrobe—the mighty hat or sun visor. This multitasking marvel not only shields your face from the scorching sun but also comes to the rescue when the sweat starts pouring. Say goodbye to pesky droplets interrupting your flow! A hat or sun visor soaks up that perspiration, leaving you with a cool and comfortable running experience.

Now, let’s talk about the windows to your soul—your eyes. Did you know that UV rays bouncing off the pavement or sand can wreak havoc on your ocular health? Don’t fret! We’ve got your back with a simple yet powerful solution—sunglasses! These stylish accessories are not just a fashion statement; they are a vital line of defense against the harmful effects of UV radiation. By donning a pair of sunglasses with UV/UVB protection, you shield your eyes from potential threats like pterygium, ocular melanoma, and cataracts. Now, that’s a sight for sore eyes!

But hold on, before you rush to grab any pair of shades, let’s dive into the science behind UV protection. Opt for sunglasses that offer reliable UV filters to safeguard your vision. Steer clear of those trendy but ineffective eyewear options that lack the necessary protective coatings. Remember, the more light that penetrates your pupils, the greater the risk to your eyes. So, be a savvy runner and choose sunglasses that prioritize your eye health without compromising on style.

Don’t Run Shirtless

While going shirtless may seem like a way to beat the heat, it actually exposes your skin to more sun, leaving it vulnerable to potential damage. What’s more, running shirtless can trap sweat against your skin, keeping you warmer than you’d like. But fear not, for there’s a simple solution that will revolutionize your running experience.

Enter the world of technical, high-performance shirts—the superheroes of moisture-wicking magic. By opting for a quality wicking shirt, you bid farewell to sticky sweat and embrace a drier, more comfortable run. These shirts work their magic by efficiently pulling sweat away from your skin, allowing it to evaporate and keep you cool. But not all shirts are created equal, so choose wisely!

When selecting your ideal running shirt, seek out breathable, lightweight fabrics that allow your body to breathe and regulate its temperature. Look for clothing designed with the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), a measure of how effectively the fabric blocks harmful UV radiation. The higher the UPF rating, the greater the protection for your skin. For example, a shirt with a UPF of 50 will only allow approximately 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation to reach your precious skin. Now that’s impressive!

If you prefer running in sleeveless shirts or tank tops, worry not. You can still keep your arms protected by investing in sun-protective sleeves. These nifty accessories offer an extra layer of defense against the sun’s rays while allowing you to enjoy the freedom of your preferred running attire.

Now, let’s talk about fabrics to avoid—namely, cotton. While cotton may feel soft and cozy, it falls short in the sun protection department. Cotton fabrics typically have a UPF factor of approximately 5-7, meaning they allow a significant amount of radiation to reach your skin. So, bid adieu to cotton and embrace the world of performance fabrics engineered to keep you safe and comfortable.

Eat Lots of Antioxidants

Imagine this: a plate bursting with vibrant colors, brimming with the power to protect your skin. Say hello to the superheroes of nutrition—the antioxidant-rich foods that can thwart potential damage caused by those pesky free radicals. Let’s dive into the delectable options that can revolutionize your skincare game.

First up, we have the tropical delights of kiwi and pineapple, packing a punch of antioxidants to fortify your skin’s defense. These exotic fruits are not only a feast for the senses but also a feast for your skin’s vitality. Next, we venture into the realm of berries—the small but mighty warriors against free radicals. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries offer an abundance of antioxidants that can help keep your skin radiant and youthful.

But wait, the citrusy wonders of fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are also on the menu. Rich in vitamin C, these zesty treats not only give your immune system a boost but also work wonders for your skin’s health. The secret lies in their antioxidant properties, shielding your skin from the harmful effects of oxidative stress.

Vegetables take the stage as well, with broccoli leading the charge. This cruciferous powerhouse is not only packed with essential nutrients but also serves as a source of skin-loving antioxidants. Green and red peppers join the party, adding a vibrant touch to your plate while bolstering your skin’s defenses.

But let’s not forget the skin-boosting wonders of carotenoids—the antioxidants that lend a vibrant hue to fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, papaya, and mango are just a few examples of the skin-loving treasures that nature provides. By indulging in these colorful delights, you give your skin a powerful ally in the fight against free radicals.

If you’re looking for an extra boost, turn to skin supplements that contain vitamins A and E. These trusty allies work hand in hand to nourish your skin from the inside out, providing added support in your quest for youthful radiance.

Runners Face – The Conclusion 

I hate to disappoint you, but there isn’t such a thing as runners face.

The up-and-down movement is nothing to worry about, and it’s definitely not going to age your skin faster.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t protect your face when running outdoors.

By taking the above steps, you can drastically slow down the aging of your skin.

Thank you for dropping by.

Keep running strong.

David D.

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